True Meaning of being Malaysian 

We view people based on their color, social status, wealth, power, influence, etc. We are forgetting that once we were looked down by the British during the colonial era. All of us were treated as third class citizens. But now, we are doing what the British did to our fellow Malaysian.

Natesan Visnu 

31st August 1957 is a day we all fondly remember. We remember the image and voice of Tuanku Abdul Rahman chanting the word “Merdeka!Merdeka!Merdeka!Merdeka!Merdeka!Merdeka!Merdeka!” with the crowd joining in. The word ‘Merdeka’ remains meaningless after 56 years and average Malaysians are still in dilemma with the meaning of ‘merdeka’ or independence. We live in a society where the identity of an individual is based on race and status. We are very fond of introducing ourselves as Malaysian Malay, Malaysian Chinese, Malaysian Indian, etc. In our daily conversation, we are very fond of using ‘The Chinese boy said….’, ‘India itu cakap….’, ‘That Malay makcik said…’, ‘Sabah and Sarawak people always like that….’, ‘Yang tu orang Kelantan’ etc. We still live in a society where our identity is always based on race, status, state, dialect, etc.

In true essence, we have not achieved independent ‘state of mind’ and we are still at where we have begun. We are not Malaysian, we are still a nation with multi-identities and multi-ideologies. The word ‘Malaysian’ is an ideology or extension of political will to create a pseudo-identity of a nation build based on multi-races and multi-cultural. The word ‘Malaysian’ remains as an ideology and the true definition of the word remain undefined. Malaysian means nothing much to any of us unless when we are supporting our football team, Lee Chong Wei or Nicol David. Our unity only happens during sporting events. After that we are back being what we are. Malaysian with multiple identities and ideologies. The identity ideology remains an integral part of our daily affairs.

To take it futher, we are even divided in our food. Malaysian Malay cuisine, Malaysian Indian cuisine, Malaysian Chinese cuisine. In reality, our cooking style is truly unique because of the combination of all spices, herbs, etc. The term Malaysian food is yet to be an identity of our own. We are not even united in our food identity. That leads to more doubts on what is being a ‘Malaysian’.

This year’s theme for ‘Merdeka’ is Malaysiaku Berdaulat, Tanah Tumpahnya Darahku (My Sovereignty Malaysia, My Native Land). If we were to ask the average Malaysian, what does that mean to you? The answers will remain vague and idealistic in nature. We have lost our sense of being Malaysian a long time ago. The only true Malaysian I can recollect from history is Dato’ Onn Jaafar. He was the first Malaysian to express his desire to formulate a single party that unites everyone under one roof. The only politician who engineered his own ‘political suicide’ for forming the concept of Malaysian. If his vision and dream was realised back in the days, we would have been very different. Maybe we will only remember the word ‘Malaysian’. The race ideology would have been erased from our mind and we would been really ‘Merdeka’ in spirit. Maybe today, we will be known as ‘Malaysian’ without any extension of identity.

The word Malaysian remains idealistic not pragmatic. The modern society armed with technology, knowledge and wisdom have moved backwards. In the 60s, you could watch a P.Ramlee movie with a scene like ‘gin tonic and iblis tonic’. The simplistic humor has demonstrated the Malaysian identity. Our culture was evolving towards being Malaysian until our progress declined with the political nature of the country where we remain divided. Movie makers with new ideas has attempted to liberate the society from the racial clutch. Yasmin Ahmad would be the pioneer for Malaysian ideology through her works. The Malaysian art scene has remained dull over the years after P.Ramlee and Yasmin Ahmad. Arts and literature shapes the thinking of a society. Our art and literature scene has not shown any significant growth or maturity and we are still looking back at our glorified past with works of P. Ramlee and Yasmin Ahmad.

The barbaric thinking plaguing our society is becoming rampant. Instead of progressing and maturing as one, we are becoming more divided. We have lost our sense and judgement as humans and we are developing our opinion based on race and status. We no longer look at other races as our brothers and sisters. We view people based on their color, social status, wealth, power, influence, etc. We are forgetting that once we were looked down by the British during the colonial era. All of us were treated as third class citizens. But now, we are doing what the British did to our fellow Malaysian. The new age Malaysian are divided into the rich and poor, the powerful and powerless,etc. We have failed to look at human as human for their kindness, compassion, ethics and human values. We are no longer Malaysian, we just exist with whatever ideology that suits us as required.

The true meaning of Malaysian is still imaginary. A friend of mine said, ‘the people who consume alcohol are the thinkers and the people who consume coffee are doers. What our society lacks is a combination of both.’ Echoing that analogy, we need the combination of alcohol and coffee drinkers for Malaysia.

This Merdeka should reflect the progress that we have made in years. The ups and downs as a nation and society. We are still an optimistic society and we have the potential to become a great nation. A nation that prospers with economic growth, political maturity, avant-garde education, intelligent citizens, technology advanced nation and sporting nation We have all the qualities but we lack progressive thinking. If we start looking from the Malaysian lens, we might start thinking and act differently. Steve Jobs said ‘think different’.

My Merdeka wish is for us to progress being Malaysian first. Let’s drop the identity of Malaysian Chinese or Indian. Let’s move forward being Malaysian. Maybe the next time you talk to someone, you just refer to others as plain Malaysian. Stop describing people as Indian, Chinese, Iban or Kadazan. Just refer to them as plain Malaysian. Dr. Mahathir, Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang, Nicole David and Lee Chong Wei are Malaysian. No need for further descriptions.

Selamat Menyambut Hari Merdeka!